Globalization is not a new term since it has existed for a long period. For many years, globalization has continued to grow through trade, travel, migration, transfer of cultural elements, and spread of knowledge. For over 500 years, monarchs, adventurous, and financiers have been committed to the creation of a more global economy. Today, major changes that have taken place in different sectors have made it possible for globalization efforts to continue.
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Globalization involves changing the organization of business firms, eliminating regulations, and creating an impact on national and local politics around the world. Although globalization leads to the creation of new markets and new wealth around the world, it is also associated with suffering and unrest. There have been concerns that globalization can make the state redundant (Scholte, 2000). This paper will analyze the concept of globalization and examine whether it can make the state redundant.
Globalization and the Role of the State
Globalization cannot be defined by a single word. It can only be well understood when explained in terms of processes rather than a solitary situation. The term is reflective of the emergence of interregional systems and networks of exchange and interaction. Globalization encompasses a network of relations that exist among states, communities, international institutions, multinational corporations, and non-governmental organizations.
The nation-state which is the major channel through which sovereignty and modern-day democracy are exercised has been challenged by the concept of globalization and regionalization. For a long time, capitalism has been connected with nation-states. It is manifested in form of national markets that are supported by the state. However, the link between capitalism and the nation-state has been declining progressively. Globalization has been interfering with the role of the nation-state, making the importance of politics irrelevant and overshadowing the meaning of sovereignty. This supposed disappearance of the nation-state and national sovereignty is part of what has been regarded as contemporary capitalism (Annesley, 2006).
Capitalism has been experienced in all corners of the world where it is presented through a global system. Even the 19th century British and American capitalism was not universal. Capitalism is no longer what it used to be since it has lost its identity by becoming extra-territorial. This phenomenon poses a threat to the survival of the ancient concept of the nation-state. The managerial functions of the state have been reduced by the free markets forcing governments to work hard to deal with economic hardships beyond their control.
There have been growing concerns that the powers of the nation-state have been eroded by globalization. It is evident that the increasing rate at which structural transformation and the global economy have taken place strains the capacity of the economy to adapt. Consequently, this has put the legitimacy of the government and international institutions in question.
Globalization and National Sovereignty or Identity
The concept of self-governing communities is associated with ancient studies but distinctive credibility is essential in the modern world. The modern state is responsible for legitimizing the mandate of the state to collect taxes. It also creates an administrative system for the entire state that is uniform. The international economy does not correspond to the globalized economy model since the upcoming types of governance in international markets and economic processes create new roles for the state.
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The state, therefore, becomes less sovereign and more of an international quasi polity. The most important functions of the nation-state remain the provision of legitimacy and overseeing the accountability of subnational and supernational governance styles (Scholte, 2000).
The concept of globalization has caused problems for nation-states. Some critics argue that opportunistic market forces make it difficult for governments to protect their populations from ill-intentioned individuals. Others hold the view that market forces are important since they protect citizens from being exploited by predatory governments. The world market forces have more power than most national politics and political choices hence they are capable of sidelining the most powerful states.
Labor is nationally located and is also relatively static hence it adjusts its political expectations to cope with the challenges of international competition. National regimes that deal with labor rights and social protection are therefore not important. The effectiveness of the nation-state as an economic manager has continued to decline. Its ability has remained in the provision of social public services that are considered crucial by international capital due to reduced overhead costs.
Globalization is not in itself disadvantageous since it creates cultural and scientific enrichment to the world and benefits many people economically. A few years ago, the world was characterized by poverty with a few rich people. It is not possible to reverse the suffering of the poor people by denying them the benefits of technology, the effectiveness of international trade, and the economic benefits of open societies. The most important thing is the fair and equitable distribution of the benefits of globalization. The central issue is the problem of inequality among states. The relevant differences include differences in wealth and political, economic, and social asymmetries. The biggest question that has remained is how the benefits of globalization should be shared among states and various groups in the states.
Many critics of globalization have been concerned that it weakens the role of the national state. States that lack strong institutions find it difficult to deal with the costs of globalization while those with strong institutions can use it for their advantage. Unless states build strong institutions such as accountable executives, strong parliaments, sound social policies on health, education, and systems of social security, they are bound to experience unequal distribution of benefits of globalization. One of the reasons why states do not benefit from globalization is the lack of strong institutions and effective public administration policies.
Besides, limiting the role of the state in major social issues and disregarding public services makes it difficult for many states to deal with the challenges of globalization. The state has retreated so fast in areas of social issues and this has significantly reduced its strength. Its capacity and ability to adapt to the new globalized environment and remain open are important issues that the state should pay attention to. The most important concern for states therefore is not whether to globalize, but how to approach globalization (Scholte, 2000).
Redefining the Role of State in a globalized environment
The function and the role of the state have been transformed by globalization. The overall structure of the responsibilities of the state has changed leading to adjustments in policies and the need for high-quality skills. The changes that have been occasioned by globalization imply that there is a need for a shift from hands-on management towards strategic planning. This would make it possible for the creation of an enabling framework for individual initiative and private enterprise.
The state’s center of gravity has been moved hence shifting the locus of power of the state. Deregulation and decentralization add to the importance of non-state actors and the local government who take up the role of outsourcing and devolution.
Besides, many other roles and policy decisions that were traditionally handled by national bureaucracies have been shifted to the intergovernmental or the supranational level as a result of globalization. This has been made possible by the increased flow of capital, goods, labor, and information among countries. The role of the state has been increasingly turned to that of linking processes of planning, negotiation, consultation, and decision making comprising of different actors and the state at varying levels of governance (Owens, Smith, & Baylis, 2011).
The governments that seem to retain their roles in a globalized environment are those that have remained open to ambiguity, change, and uncertainty. In these states, institutional change or alterations have been made to cope with the changing environment, to spearhead policy development, and to streamline the processes of decision making. These processes also assist in addressing short term problems to create long term solutions. Nation-states are faced with the challenge of transformations at the local and global levels. For states to deal with globalization, they should therefore be prepared to remain open to diversity and be optimistic about the future.
With the advent of globalization, the state has a crucial role to play in establishing and maintaining an enabling environment for social action, individual creativity, and private enterprise. It can also promote social dialogue at various levels and eliminate disparities to ensure equitable distribution of the benefits of globalization. A strategic and proactive democratic state is supposed to reverse poverty and underdevelopment among the citizens (Owens, Smith, & Baylis, 2011). Reducing poverty at the international and national levels is an important strategy for building human capital and restoring public trust. Besides, a strong democratic state with sound institutions for dealing with domestic and international challenges is essential today.
Impact of Globalization on Democracy and State
Modern means of a communication form the basis for international civil societies where people share interests and associations which go beyond their borders. The international medium also creates a world culture linked through English as a universal rather than a national language. The concept of cultural homogeneity is not an easy one since national cultures only form part of several cultures where individuals participate for various reasons.
Operations of different world markets bring in the idea of internationalized culture since it cannot be avoided. It might not be practical for the state to control every idea but the control of the borders and the movements across the borders have remained an obligation of the state. Most of the world populations are currently restricted to move unless those who suffer intolerable conditions in their countries. Advanced countries do not grand workers frontiers through which they can move in large numbers as they did in the 19th century. The poor people from Eastern Europe and third world countries are increasingly unwelcome in advanced countries unless they are refugees or migrants working for low wages.
Western societies have been cutting down the number of jobs available, a factor that has made it difficult for local unskilled laborers to get jobs. This causes a lot of pressure to exclude the migrants since they are considered foreigners based on laws that deny them citizenship. As a result, the biggest percentage of the world’s population still lives in a closed world despite the advent of globalization. Income and wealth are not global since they are distributed between the rich and poor states in terms of the regions. For most people, nation-states cannot be simply regarded as local authorities or municipalities. Communities that live in poverty around the world cannot extricate themselves from the free trade system and transform themselves within their borders.
Globalization does not make the state redundant. On the contrary, it makes it important for the full exploitation of the opportunities that come as a result of international integration. The state has become crucial in facilitating the transactions at both ends. Failed states and states that are always engulfed in war are locked out of the global economic system. The implication of globalization for states is that policy determines the pace and extent of globalization.
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Every state has the responsibility of shaping globalization. Besides, states choose to embrace globalization because they are aware of the benefits of the concept. Once adopted, the degree of integration imposes constraints on the ability of states to perform their roles. International economic integration is also responsible for intensifying the impact of the differences that exist between good and bad states.
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Owens, P., Smith, S., & Baylis, J. (2011). The Globalization of World Politics:An Introduction to International Relations. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
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